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No such thing as a bridge too far

A classic card game stirs up fond memories for seniors Harry Stewart and Betty Brown. They’ve continued a tradition of playing a weekly game of bridge in the games room of Chartwell Elmira Retirement Residence for the past two years. Last week, however, they took the game on the road with the Waterloo Central Railway in St. Jacobs.

“I used to play bridge on the train in 1951,” said Stewart. “I’ll tell you one thing, it’s the best game in the world.”

“Harry was on the train from Toronto to Vancouver back in 1951,” explained Jeff Beatty, who works in maintenance at Chartwell and joins in the tradition. “He didn’t know anything about bridge, but some of the other players on the train needed a fourth because you need to have four players. So Harry offered to play. And they played day and night from Toronto to Vancouver for three days. They only got a couple of hours of sleep.”

For last Thursday’s outing, they were joined by Carla Schott, who also works at Chartwell. Their passion for the game inspired her.

“I played bridge in Grade 7 and liked it, but never played again,” said Schott. I started up again when I heard these guys were playing I thought, ‘oh, maybe I should try that.’”

The trip was arranged in celebration of Stewart’s birthday, with both Brown and Stewart now being octogenarians.

“We were thinking of decorating the games room where we normally play, but it’d be much more difficult to make it look like a railroad car,” said Beatty. “So we came up with the idea of ‘let’s just take a real train and do it!’ So that’s how it came about.”

The setting was also particularly special to Brown, who has a particular fondness for trains that dates back decades.

“Betty was the real train fanatic,” said Beatty. “She used to live in Belleville; everybody in Belleville used to work for the railroad. So she has many fond memories of train experiences. Even going back to when the troops were going to war. They would wait on the platform and wave to the troops and hand out cigarettes. She recanted that story during our game.”

Bridge is a trick-taking card game that uses a standard 52-card deck played where four players in two divided partnerships aim to win as many tricks as possible. It became popular in the 1930s.

“Nobody knows much about the game,” said Beatty with a laugh. “Three of us here have got 50+ years of experience playing bridge, and we still don’t know anything about it.”

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